Dash Talk

The electoral map shifts in Democrats’ favor


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Quick Fix

— For the first time in POLITICO’s Election Forecast, former Vice President Joe Biden is considered the favorite. Our latest ratings changes below.

— Kentucky ran a primary in the midst of a pandemic that largely avoided problems that popped up in the states before it. Here’s how they did it.

— Pre-primary reports are in ahead of the primaries and runoffs in Maine, Texas and Alabama. Here’s where the fundraising race stands.

Good Monday morning. Campaign Pro chief Steve Shepard ([email protected]; @POLITICO_Steve) brings you the latest on our election forecast. Direct your complaints to him, but email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @ZachMontellaro.

Email the rest of the Campaign Pro team at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow them on Twitter: @JamesArkin and @allymutnick.

Days until the New Jersey (presidential and downballot) and Delaware (presidential) primaries: 1

Days until the Maine primary and Alabama and Texas primary runoffs: 8

Days until the Democratic convention: 42

Days until the Republican convention: 50

Days until the 2020 election: 120


ELECTION FORECAST — Election Day is less than four months away, and the political environment has shifted significantly since the last update of POLITICO’s Election Forecast.

POLITICO’s Steve Shepard: “A series of crises over the past three months has seen the political environment deteriorate markedly for Trump and his party. The percentage of voters who think the country is headed in the wrong direction is hitting new highs, and Trump’s approval rating is settling near his all-time lows.”

POLITICO now rates 268 electoral votes in the “Lean Democratic” column or better — just two shy of a majority. Four states have moved from the toss-up column to Lean Democratic: Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Michigan and Pennsylvania are the most consequential moves, though Biden still needs one of the toss-up states (or perhaps the two competitive districts in Maine and Nebraska) to push over the top.

Biden’s emergence as the favorite in the race might seem like old news, given the polling leads he has posted in recent months. But the forecast is conservative by design. The election is four months away. A lot can change in four months: Four months ago, we were all in our offices or out on the campaign trail, eating in restaurants and cramming into packed airplanes, subway cars and basketball gyms.

But Trump’s slump has only deepened over the past few months. And given his historically low ceiling over the course of his presidency, a significant recovery is not likely. His best chance to earn a second term appears to be a similar threading of the Electoral College needle as in 2016— not impossible, but it would require his numbers to rebound.

A Biden victory could bring a Senate majority with it for Democrats, and we now consider the battle for the Senate to be a toss up. The Arizona special election is now rated as leaning toward Democrat Mark Kelly. Colorado might be close behind if former Gov. John Hickenlooper continues to lead GOP Sen. Cory Gardner — but it stays in toss up for now. Two GOP-held seats moving into the toss-up category: Iowa and Montana, which both began the cycle in Republicans’ column.

In the battle for the House, Democrats’ majority has been bolstered further by the recent change in the political environment, along with continued stellar fundraising by the party’s candidates. A few races moved toward Republicans as a result of primary elections — including Rep. Steve King’s Northwest Iowa seat.

The other two statewide races in North Carolina, the presidential and Senate contests, are still toss ups. But Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is now the favorite over GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in the biggest 2020 governor’s race, as Cooper has seen a bump in his poll numbers over the past few months. Meanwhile, two races moved towards Republicans: West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice easily won his primary, while popular Vermont Gov. Phil Scott says he’ll seek another term.

Presidential Big Board

CONVENTION SPOTTING — The last-minute move of the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville created a real fundraising headache. “The host committee [in Charlotte] has spent virtually all of the $38 million it raised before the convention was moved, leaving almost nothing to return to donors, or to pass on to the new host city,” The New York Times’ Annie Karni, Rebecca Ruiz and Ken Vogel reported. “In Jacksonville, fund-raisers are describing the process as the most difficult they have ever confronted: Florida has been setting daily records for new virus cases, freezing money as donors wait and worry about the safety risks of the pandemic.”

RALLY TIME — President Donald Trump will be hosting another rally soon. WMUR’s John DiStaso first reported that the president will have an outdoor rally in Portsmouth, N.H., on Saturday. An email from the campaign said attendees “will be provided a face mask that they are strongly encouraged to wear.”

THE FOURTH — It was a tale of two messages from Trump and Biden over the weekend. The president gave a “dark and divisive speech” at the foot of Mount Rushmore on Friday, The New York Times’ Karni wrote, “using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war”. Biden, who did not give a live address, centered on racial justice in an Independence Day video, POLITICO’s Chris Cadelago wrote.

THE CASH DASH — The Democratic super PACs American Bridge and Unite the County, which announced earlier this year they’d be working together, collectively raised $30 million in the second quarter, per The Washington Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee.

— Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist and prominent Silicon Valley backer of the president, “has told friends and associates that he plans to sit out this year’s presidential campaign because he thinks re-election is increasingly a long shot,” The Wall Street Journal’s Rob Copeland, Keach Hagey and Tripp Mickle reported.

THE MAP — Team Trump is coming to terms with a drastically shrinking map.
“Gone are the days of forecasting a landslide victory, said one person close to the Trump campaign. The president’s team is now recasting its expectations to identify not where Trump can win more, but how he can lose less,” POLITICO’s Gabby Orr and Marc Caputo wrote. “That strategy accounts for a base of 260 electoral votes, a sum of every state Trump carried four years ago minus Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which total a combined 46 Electoral College votes. To ensure its effectiveness, the campaign has recently moved to shore up its base states, including North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Iowa.”

ON THE AIRWAVES — Trump released a new TV ad, saying Biden “can’t fix our economy” and calling the former vice president “diminished and weak.”

STAFFING UP — Trump is reinstating Susie Wiles, who was a top adviser to his campaign in Florida in 2016. Wiles was ousted at the request of GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2019, POLITICO’s Gary Fineout and Marc Caputo reported.

— Biden announced his top staff in Florida: Jackie Lee is state director, Brandon Thompson is campaigns coordinated director, and state Democratic Party executive director Juan Peñalosa and Karen Andrew are senior advisers. POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon has more.

WAIT A SEC — Over the weekend, Kanye West tweeted that he was running for president. This is the last you’ll see of this in Score about this until he takes any additional steps to show he actually might run and that this isn’t a PR stunt. (Remember Kid Rock’s “Senate run”?)

Down the Ballot

THE PROCESS — Kentucky’s primary in mid-June largely went off without a problem, which stands in stark contrast to nearly every other state that has held a primary since Covid-19 reached America’s shores. The state drastically expanded absentee, mail-in voting in the state, which earned them measured praise from voting rights advocates nationally and in the state, I wrote. But the changes are temporary: Nothing is set in stone for November. Read my full story for interviews with Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams and more.

— The Supreme Court voted 5-4 along ideological lines to block a lower court’s order that required Alabama to allow some curbside voting and nixed absentee ballot witness signature requirements for the July 14 runoff. A note from POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein: “None of the justices issued any statement explaining the decision, so its import for future court rulings on judicially mandated voting changes because of the dangers of the coronavirus is murky.”

THE CASH DASH — We have more fundraising numbers for the July 14 primaries and primary runoffs. These filings cover nearly the entirety of the 2nd quarter, running from April 1 through June 24.

— AL-Sen: Ahead of the GOP primary runoff, Tommy Tuberville raised $667,000, spent $678,000 and had $448,000 in the bank (filing). Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions raised $443,000, spent $692,000 and had $500,000 in the bank (filing). Democratic Sen. Doug Jones isn’t in a runoff and won’t have to file until the quarterly deadline on the 15th.

— ME-Sen: GOP Sen. Susan Collins raised $3 million, spent $3.6 million and has $5 million in the bank (filing). Democrat Sara Gideon raised $8.1 million, spent $7.3 million and has $5.5 million in cash on hand (filing). Betsy Sweet raised $223,000, spent $221,000 and had $45,000 in the bank (filing).

— TX-Sen: For the Democratic runoff, MJ Hegar raised $1.6 million, spent $1.1 million and has $1.6 million in the bank (filing). Royce West raised $430,000, spent $391,000 and had $160,000 in the bank (filing). GOP Sen. John Cornyn won’t file until the quarterly deadline.

— AL-01: In the GOP runoff in the open red seat, Jerry Carl raised $216,000, spent $183,000 and has $239,000 in the bank (filing). Bill Hightower raised $178,000, spent $196,000 and has $195,000 in cash reserves (filing).

— AL-02: In the GOP runoff in the open red seat, Jeff Coleman raised $329,000, spent $258,000 and has $132,000 in cash on hand (filing). Barry Moore raised $144,000 (including a $50,000 loan), spent $128,000 and has $93,000 in the bank (filing).

— ME-02: Freshman Democratic Rep. Jared Golden raised $508,000, spent $180,000 and has $2 million in the bank (filing).

Republican Eric Brakey raised $150,000, spent $167,000 and had $151,000 in the bank (filing). Dale Crafts raised $105,000 (including $47,000 from the candidate), spent $173,000 and had $60,000 in the bank (filing). Adrienne Bennett raised $90,000, spent $99,000 and had $30,000 in cash on hand (filing).

— TX-10: In the Democratic runoff, Pritesh Gandhi raised $219,000, spent $189,000 and has $93,000 in the bank (filing). Mike Siegel raised $200,000, spent $155,000 and has $171,000 in the bank (filing). GOP Rep. Mike McCaul did not have a primary challenger.

— TX-13: In the open red seat, Republican Ronny Jackson raised $492,000, spent $415,000 and has $207,000 in the bank (filing). Josh Winegarner raised $290,000, spent $279,000 and has $170,000 in cash on hand (filing).

— TX-17: In the open red seat, former GOP Rep. Pete Sessions raised $373,000 (including a $50,000 loan), spent $315,000 and has $151,000 on hand (filing). Renee Swann raised $371,000, spent $379,000 and has $123,000 in the bank (filing).

— TX-22: In the Republican runoff, Kathaleen Wall gave or loaned her campaign $3 million (she raised nearly nothing from donors), spent $2 million and has $1 million in the bank (filing). Troy Nehls raised $108,000 (including $5,600 in loans), spent $98,000 and had $33,000 in cash on hand (filing). Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni won his primary outright.

— TX-23: In the GOP runoff, Tony Gonzales won $334,000, spent $207,000 and had $398,000 in the bank (filing). Raul Reyes raised $115,000 (including a $48,000 loan), spent $101,000 and had $59,000 in cash on hand (filing). Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones won her primary.

— TX-24: In the Democratic runoff, Kim Olson raised $388,000, spent $280,000 and had $311,000 on hand (filing). Candice Valenzuela raised $381,000, spent $401,000 and had $121,000 in the bank (filing). Republican Beth Van Duyne won her primary.

— TX-31: In the Democratic runoff, Christine Mann raised $79,000 (including a $29,000 loan), spent $75,000 and had $4,000 in the bank (filing). Donna Imam raised $70,000, spent $49,000 and had $161,000 in the bank (filing). GOP Rep. John Carter won his primary.

LATE CALLS — Some more calls out of New York’s June 23 primary. In the open NY-02 on Long Island, Republican state Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino won the GOP primary, while Democrat Jackie Gordon won her primary. Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi easily won his primary in NY-03 and will face Republican George Santos.

FIRST IN SCORE — ON THE AIRWAVES — The RGA is going up with its first ads in the Montana gubernatorial race. The ads, which are run by RGA Right Direction PAC, target Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney. “For forty-four years, Mike Cooney’s been running for office, a political insider since Jimmy Carter was president,” the TV ad’s narrator says. “While Cooney has made over a million dollars off Montana taxpayers, he’s raised taxes and fees – over $100 million dollars worth.” A corresponding radio ad strikes a similar message, before promoting GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte as a “successful businessman.” The ads go up today and are backed by a six-figure buy.

— The NRSC booked its first buys in Georgia. Campaign Pro’s James Arkin reported (for Pros) that the party committee reserved more than $2.1 million in the state starting on July 15, its first spending in the Peach State.

— The DSCC and Hegar went up with a joint buy in Texas, ahead of the primary runoff, putting $541,000 behind an ad that boosts Hegar, according to Advertising Analytics.

— There’s a pair of dueling negative ads between Gideon and Collins in Maine. The Gideon ad pushes back against recent GOP ads saying Gideon did not act fast enough to boot a then-state representative to resign over alleged misconduct with children, and says that Collins “gives Donald Trump a pass.” The Collins ad says Gideon has done “absolutely nothing about Covid-19 and huge job losses” and says ads attacking the senator are lying.

— Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is out with a new ad. “As Michigan opens up, we need to focus on what our economy really looks like – who gets the breaks and who gets left behind,” Peters says in the ad. “That means putting Main Street before Wall Street.”

— The NRSC released its first ad in North Carolina, tying Democrat Cal Cunningham to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) with footage of them all saying they’re “progressive.”

— Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) released an ad with a doctor saying she doesn’t support Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock because he’ll help “Biden and Pelosi pass government-controlled health care.”

— FIRST IN SCORE — Marilyn Strickland, one of the Democrats running in the open WA-10. The ad is a positive bio spot for the former mayor of Tacoma, highlighting her tenure. It is narrated by former Govs. Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire and will start running on Tuesday through the primary on Aug. 4.

THE CASH DASH (CONTINUED) — WinRed, the Republican fundraising platform, announced that Republican candidates raised more than $275 million on the platform in the second quarter of the year, Campaign Pro’s Ally Mutnick reported. That’s better than the previous three quarters combined.

— FIRST IN SCORE — Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer will report raising $875,000 in the second quarter for her IA-01 reelection. She had $2.7 million in the bank as of June 30. Her campaign had over 4,600 first-time individual contributors.

— Another big pot of money will soon likely land in Gideon’s lap. Roll Call’s Kate Ackley reported that the pool of money raised on Crowdpac for Collins’ opponent, stemming from anger surrounding her support for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanhaugh, has topped $4 million. The money will go to whomever wins the primary in a week, which is expected to be Gideon.

— Ahead of the quarterly filing deadline, Democrat Raphael Warnock announced that he raised over $2.85 million for the Georgia special Senate election. He did not announce a cash on hand.

ENDORSEMENT CORNER — Trump waded into the TX-23 GOP primary runoff at the last minute, backing Gonzales in a July 3 tweet.

PRIMARY PROBLEMS — Progressives are aiming to take down longtime Democratic Rep. Richie Neal in MA-01, which will be one of the last primaries of the cycle, with Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse running from his left. POLITICO’s Stephanie Murray has more on the race, and another Massachusetts Democrat facing a challenge: Rep. Stephen Lynch in MA-08, who is facing a primary from Robbie Goldstein, a doctor and infectious disease specialist.

DEBATE DEBATE — The final Kansas GOP Senate debate, scheduled for July 15, was axed after three candidates threatened to boycott. Kris Kobach, Bob Hamilton and David Lindstrom said the debate (which was really more like a forum, because candidates would’ve appeared one at a time), favored GOP Rep. Roger Marshall. The Kansas City Star’s Bryan Lowry reported.

— Hamilton also released a pair of new ads. One targets Marshall, using recent KC Star reporting how a reckless driving charge for the member of Congress was erased. And the second ad is a spot which has Hamilton making a variety of puns.

THE HOME STRETCH — The GOP primary runoff in TX-22 between Nehls and Wall “has come to an explosive home stretch over allegations that [Nehls], a sheriff, did not take sex trafficking seriously,” The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek wrote. Wall has been hammering that home recently in TV ads, and Nehls has vehemently pushed back.

CODA — QUOTE OF THE DAY: “On June 1, if I had told you that by July 1 the flag would be down in Mississippi, Woodrow Wilson would be off the wall at Princeton, Juneteenth would be a national holiday for companies, Black Lives Matter would reflect the great, not so silent majority, you would question my sanity,” Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House staffer, to POLITICO.

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